DAILY DIGEST, 3/10: Storm paradox: Too much water in reservoirs, too soon; How much snow fell in California? Take a look.; Thirst for water: How the nation’s largest desalination plant is generating change; Colorado River doomsday averted?; and more …

On the calendar today …

  • WORKSHOP: Sacramento River Science Partnership Annual Workshop (Hybrid) from 9am to 5pm.  The Sacramento River Science Partnership (SRSP) is excited to announce its 2023 Annual Workshop. We hope you will be able to join us in person though there will also be a virtual option.  The workshop will focus on 2022 Upper Sacramento River urgent salmon actions and drought actions.  Click here to register.
  • WORKSHOP: Potential Legal Delta and Return Flow Water Supply Refinements to the Water Unavailability Methodology for the Delta Watershed from 10am to 5pm.  State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board or Board) staff will hold a technical workshop to receive public input on potential changes to the Water Unavailability Methodology (Methodology) for the Delta Watershed, including Legal Delta and return flow water supplies. Summary materials describing some possible changes to the Methodology will be made available on the Water Unavailability Methodology webpage in late February. During the workshop, there will be a staff presentation followed by the opportunity for questions and comments.   See the notice for additional information and instructions to participate in the workshop.

California storms …

California storms create paradox: Too much water in reservoirs, too soon

“Two winters’ worth of snow has already fallen in the Sierra Nevada since Christmas, pulling California from the depths of extreme drought into one of its wettest winters in memory.  But as a series of tropical storms slams the state, that bounty has become a flood risk as warm rains fall on the state’s record snowpack, causing rapid melting and jeopardizing Central Valley towns still soggy from January’s deluges.  The expected surge of mountain runoff forced state officials on Wednesday to open the “floodgates” of Lake Oroville and other large reservoirs that store water for millions of Southern Californians and Central Valley farms. Releasing the water will make room for the storm’s water and melted snow, prevent the reservoirs from flooding local communities — and send more water downstream, into San Francisco Bay. The increased flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could help endangered salmon migrate to the ocean. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

A level 4 of 4 warning of excessive rainfall issued in some California areas

“Officials in California issued evacuation warnings in portions of several counties amid powerful storms likely to deliver severe rainfall and cause widespread flooding across the central and northern parts of the state Friday.  The most dangerous amount of rain could impact nearly 70,000 people along the central California coast, stretching from Salinas southward to San Luis Obispo and including parts of Ventura and Monterey counties, according to the Weather Prediction Center, which issued a Level 4 of 4 warning of excessive rainfall in the area.  “Multiple rounds of rainfall in addition to melting snow will result in the potential for significant rises along streams and rivers, with widespread flooding impacts possible through early next week,” the National Water Center said Thursday. … ”  Read more from CNN.

Reservoir releases underway as California braces for atmospheric rivers

“Once mired in drought, California now has too much of a good thing and has opened spillways on key reservoirs as the first of two atmospheric rivers made landfall Thursday afternoon.  The Golden State activated the Flood Operation Center ahead of the incoming storms, to notify officials of high water levels and support local flood relief efforts.  At a state Department of Water Resources briefing, climatologist Michael Anderson predicted two storms in the next six days, with at least an inch of rain expected in the Central and Sacramento valleys. The first storm brings warmer air so two to four inches of rain could fall on top of near record-breaking snow at higher elevations.  Anderson said scientists are researching the effects of the January storms on California’s drought. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service.

Incoming California storms to bring even more drought relief

“The latest numbers published by the United States Drought Monitor on Thursday morning showed a continued improvement in the long-term drought that has plagued California for years. And with another sizable storm bearing down on the state, AccuWeather forecasters expect the state’s remarkable drought turnaround to continue into the spring.  California, one of the most drought-stricken states in the country, saw its fortunes start to change around the start of the year when a series of storms socked the state with heavy rain and mountain snow from late December into the middle of January. Then, in late February and early March, another round of potent storms arrived. One such storm brought more than 7 inches of rain in some Southern California locations and dropped unusually heavy snow in the mountains around Los Angeles. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.


Washington Post interactive:  How much snow fell in California? Take a look.

“California’s diverse landscape of beaches, valleys, foothills and mountains has been transformed into a winter wonderland by a spectacularly snowy winter.  The scenes have ranged from staggering amounts of mountain snow to a coating at unusually low elevations down to near sea level, and the numbers just keep growing: Up to 16 feet of snow in two weeks. Some Sierra resorts are pushing 600 inches of snow for the season, which is at least 200 inches above the norm.  Here, we take you on a visual tour across California — from stunning scenes of frosted beaches and foothills, to impassable mountain roads with snow piled higher than street signs. … ”  Check it out at the Washington Post (gift article).

In other California water news today …

Earth is warming up. So why is California having a record-breaking winter?

“In the Bay Area, the past three months have included historic rains, record-breaking low temperatures, and even snow in places like the Berkeley hills and North Bay highlands. In the Sierra Nevada, storms and frigid temperatures have produced so much snow that this year’s snowpack could become the largest ever recorded for the state, following upcoming storms. …  All this winter weather may seem to be at odds with the hotter, drier California that scientists expect with climate change, as greenhouse gas emissions raise global temperatures. But that trend is taking place over longer timescales, across the entire planet. What happens in California from year to year — or even winter to winter — can vary dramatically and still fit into the bigger story, scientists say.  “Weather does not equal climate,” said Erica Siirila-Woodburn, a hydrology research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, by email. … ”  Read more from the SF Chronicle (gift article).

It’s over: NOAA declares official end to La Nina

“NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) on Thursday declared an end to the long-lasting La Niña that began nearly three years ago, signaling that ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific were warming up.  The La Niña pattern, the colder counterpart of El Niño in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon, has influenced the weather across the Northern Hemisphere in a number of ways in recent years.  The unusually long-lasting nature of the phenomenon led to the unofficial nickname of a “triple-dip La Niña” as it persisted through three winter seasons. Conditions were first observed in the central Pacific in the three-month stretch from July through September 2020, and they continued nearly uninterrupted for 30 months. This is just shy of the La Niña from 1998 to 2001, which lasted 32 months, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski. … ”  Read more from AccuWeather.


Drought marches on for parts of California despite historic rainfall, snow

“Even though California has been bombarded by snow and rain this winter, almost half of the state remains in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  “Entering the wet season, much of California was designated with drought. And we’ve had two episodes of excessive wetness late December through mid-January and then more recently, late February into the beginning of March,” Meteorologist and Drought Monitor author Brad Pugh told FOX Weather.  “So the drought coverage is decreased now down to 43% for the state, which is pretty remarkable when you think we were coming off of three very dry winters.” … ” Read more from Fox Weather.

Thirst for water: How the nation’s largest desalination plant is generating change

“When the nation’s largest desalination plant opened in Carlsbad, California, in 2015, people across the country were watching to see how it increased water supplies as groundwater dwindled, reservoirs dried up, and drought ravaged the Golden State.  Nearly 10 years later, the plant has demonstrated how seawater desalination can play a pivotal role in achieving water security. Dependent on the Colorado River and State Water Project, California found itself watching water supplies reach dangerously low levels, forcing water agencies statewide to look beyond the usual solutions and tap into new opportunities. … ”  Read more from Water Online.

Coalition issues intent to sue over governor’s decision to suspend water quality protections

“A coalition of environmental groups – the California Water Impact Network, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and AquAlliance – have submitted a notice of intent to sue the State Water Resources Control Board unless it rescinds an order to suspend water quality and fish protections in California rivers and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.  The Board’s order was issued following a decision by Governor Gavin Newsom to retain water in state reservoirs to ensure future deliveries for Central Valley agriculture. The order constituted an end-run around state and federal legal requirements to maintain adequate water quality and temperature conditions for salmon below dams. … ”  Continue reading this press release from C-WIN.

State Water Board order modifying an order that approved a Temporary Urgency Change Petition filed by DWR and Reclamation

“On March 9, 2023, the State Water Resources Control Board Executive Director issued an order modifying a February 21, 2023 Order that approved a temporary urgency change petition to modify requirements included in the water right permits and license for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project for the period of February through March 2023.  “The February 21 Order determined that an urgent need for the proposed changes existed at the time the TUCP was filed and that the changes were in the public interest and would not have unreasonable impacts on fish and wildlife. However, as identified in the March 8, 2023 Bulletin 120 hydrologic forecast, hydrologic conditions have improved since the Order was issued and additional significant precipitation is currently occurring and projected to occur.  The State Water Board has also received public comments on the TUCP and a petition for reconsideration. Based on the improved hydrology and in consideration of the public comments and the petition for reconsideration, this Order finds that an urgent need for the changes no longer exists, the changes are no longer in the public interest, and the impacts of the changes on fish and wildlife are no longer reasonable.” … ”  Read the order from the State Water Board.

California fishermen bracing for a complete closure of salmon season

“The sight of his charter boat, Salty Lady, propped up on blocks in a Richmond boat repair seemed the perfect metaphor for Captain Jared Davis’ upcoming salmon fishing season — up in the air.  With the biologists in California projecting a record low return of Fall chinook – or King salmon – Davis’ prospects of getting to fish this year were about as empty as his nets.  “The numbers are pretty clear,” said Davis who operates out of Sausalito, “I don’t see how there could be any other options aside from having a completely closed season this year.”  Fishing regulators are likely to come to the same conclusion. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area.

Congressman LaMalfa votes to strike down Biden’s revised WOTUS rule

“Today, Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R – Richvale) voted in favor of a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to strike down the Biden Administration’s updated Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Congressman LaMalfa was one of 195 Republican Members of Congress who introduced the resolution last month.  The Biden Administration’s flawed and burdensome WOTUS rule will lead to sweeping changes to the Federal Government’s authority to regulate what is considered a navigable water, with enormous impacts on small businesses, manufacturers, farmers, home and infrastructure builders, water districts, and private property owners. The Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1972. This new rule is an attempt to use regulations to create powers for federal agencies that were never granted explicitly.  Congress has the authority and responsibility to review onerous rules, such as this, to preserve regulatory clarity and prevent overzealous, unnecessary, and broadly defined Federal power. … ”  Read more from Congressman LaMalfa’s website.

Congressman Valadao votes to overturn Biden WOTUS rule

“Today, Congressman David G. Valadao (CA-22) voted yes on H.J. Res. 27, a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act that would overturn the Biden administration’s final Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The Biden administration’s WOTUS rule expands the federal government’s jurisdiction over America’s waterways under the Clean Water Act. This will have a large impact on small businesses, farmers, water districts, homebuilders, and private property owners.    “As a lifelong farmer, I know firsthand the challenges government overreach places on the day-to-day operations of farms and businesses,” said Congressman Valadao. “The Biden administration’s WOTUS rule will further burden our farmers, ranchers, and small businesses in the Central Valley and hinder our ability to grow food for the nation. I will continue fighting to put an end to this federal overreach and regulatory uncertainty.” … ”  Read more from Congressman Valadao’s website.

Congressman Valadao stresses water storage in California

“Ahead of the oncoming storms, Congressman David Valadao spoke on the House floor Wednesday Stressing the importance of capturing and storing rainwater. He discussed what he says the state should invest in to preserve more water.  “While I’m grateful for this rain, and know my fellow farmers are as well, we have all seen this situation before. Eventually, the rain will stop,” said Valadao. “While I’m grateful to the governor for the temporary relief that he pushed for a few weeks back, we cannot let this water go to waste. We must maximize what can be moved at all times through the delta, and invest in water storage infrastructure and conveyance projects so we can capture and store this critical resource.” … ”  Read more from Channel 23.

State begins effort to control Delta invasive plants

Aerial view of invasive hyacinth clogging channels in the Delta. Photo by Paul Hames / DWR

“California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) has announced its plans for this year’s Aquatic Invasive Plant Control Program (AIPCP) in the Delta and its southern tributaries. Starting March 1, DBW began herbicide treatments to control water hyacinth, South American spongeplant, Uruguay water primrose, Alligator weed, Brazilian waterweed, curlyleaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, hornwort (aka coontail), and fanwort. These aquatic invasive plants have no known natural controls in the West Coast’s largest estuary, the Delta. They harm the Delta’s ecosystem as they displace native plants. Continued warm temperatures help the plants proliferate at high rates. … ”  Read more from the Brentwood Press.

Tax incentives find new purpose for conserving water in American West

“The San Luis Valley, a high desert farming region in southern Colorado, is a land of daunting natural constraints, especially its scarce water reserves. Pragmatic ingenuity is being applied here to overcome them, including a new easement program that uses federal and state tax benefits to conserve groundwater.  In November, Ron Bowman, owner of the 1,900-acre Peachwood Farms, signed Colorado’s first groundwater conservation easement. The landmark legal agreement enables Bowman to gain a substantial tax credit based on the value of 2,000 acre-feet of water he used annually. In exchange Bowman is prohibited from pumping groundwater to irrigate his fields.  Easements to conserve groundwater, while new, work the same as easements that have been negotiated for decades to conserve environmentally sensitive land. … ”  Read more from the Circle of Blue.

Dry farming could help agriculture in the western U.S. amid climate change

“Dry farming has roots stretching back millennia. But in the western United States, the practice largely fell out of widespread use in the 20th century.  Today, however, farmers in the West are once again experimenting with dry farming as they grapple with water shortages, which are being exacerbated by rising temperatures and more frequent and intense droughts linked to climate change.  Finding a more sustainable way to grow food in a thirsty state like California, for example, where agriculture accounts for roughly 80 percent of water usage and where a third of U.S. vegetables are grown, is a top priority. Dry farming won’t solve all of agriculture’s woes, but it offers a way forward, particularly for smaller-scale producers, while drawing less on a scarce natural resource. … ”  Read more from Science News.

Using soil moisture information to better understand and predict wildfire danger

“Determining and managing wildland fire risk—in both forests and grasslands—is becoming increasingly important across the U.S and around the world. Not only are climate change-induced drought conditions making wildfires more likely in many places, but increasing human settlement along the urban-wildland interface can make impacts more severe. These factors put a premium on developing improved prediction capabilities for wildland fire.  A recent international review article, Using soil moisture information to better understand and predict wildfire danger: A review of recent developments and outstanding questions, summarizes the growing body of evidence indicating that greater use of soil moisture information in fire danger rating systems could lead to better estimates of dynamic live and dead herbaceous fuel loads, more accurate live and dead fuel moisture predictions, earlier warning of wildfire danger, and better forecasts of wildfire occurrence and size.  The article reviews the increasing availability of soil moisture data from in situ, remotely-sensed, and modeled sources, and provides a comprehensive summary of international research on the relationships between wildfire/fuel bed properties and each type of soil moisture information. … ”  Continue reading at NIDIS.

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In commentary today …

From megadroughts to megafloods

Steven Greenhut writes, “California’s weather patterns certainly have been unusual this winter, with the Sierra snowpack hitting record levels, massive flooding throughout the valleys, and slight smatterings of snow landing in such snow-averse places as Orange County. OK, some of my Southern California friends who have been joyfully posting “snow” pictures on Facebook perhaps don’t know the difference between snow and hail (or graupel) — but it’s been a particularly wet and cold season.  The latest data from the federal drought monitor reports the good water news. As of last December, extreme, severe, or exceptional drought plagued almost all of California, but most of the state is now merely abnormally dry. The reservoirs are filling up and — if weather forecasts are accurate — another series of rains will bring the state out of official drought conditions. The main water problem these days is what to do with all of the excess (and the leftover sandbags). … ”  Continue reading at the R Street.

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In regional water news and commentary today …


Nevada Irrigation District March survey measures “robust” snowpack

“Recent rounds of heavy snow continue to bolster the snowpack on Nevada Irrigation District’s (NID) snow courses that provide water to customers.  The district conducted its latest snow survey on March 2 and 3. Yet, due to the harsh winter weather and access restrictions, NID hydrographers were only able to take measurements at two- of five high-elevation courses: English Mountain and Findley Peak.  The English Mountain snow course (7,100 feet) had 152.8 inches of snow with a water content of 60.8 inches. Findley Peak (6,500 feet) had a snowpack of 129.9 inches and a 46.5-inch water content. … ”  Read more from YubaNet.

There is no chance of making it to Tahoe this weekend

“In what should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to weather in Lake Tahoe during the past two weeks, a major storm is set to hit the region late Thursday afternoon, bringing with it warmer-than-normal temperatures and heavy moisture. That means that most of the Sierra Nevada below 7,000 feet — which includes all towns around Lake Tahoe — will be receiving primarily rain from the storm, creating significant danger of roof collapses and flooding.  However, ski resorts at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada could see up to 5.3 feet of snow, according to snow forecasting website OpenSnow. That may create ideal ski conditions, but San Francisco and Sacramento residents likely won’t be able to get anywhere near Lake Tahoe, at least for the next five to six days. … ”  Read more from SF Gate.


California Winter Storm: How much water is being released from Folsom Dam

On a Thursday media briefing, DWR and Reclamation announced a series of water releases from Folsom, Oroville, and Shasta.

Flood preparations are underway in Wilton again

“Flooding preparations are underway again as storms arrive in Northern California. One area familiar with floods is Wilton, just south of Sacramento County near Elk Grove.  People in charge of protecting the area are working around the clock to prepare in hopes what happened in Wilton on New Year’s Eve doesn’t happen again. People died in floodwaters around Highway 99 during the New Year’s Eve storms, the area’s levees were breached and people were ordered to leave their homes. This sparked the town’s volunteer fire department to save more than a dozen people from their cars. … ”  Read more from Channel 10.


A mudslide, road closures, and a rescue: Sonoma County deals with effects of latest atmospheric river

“Motorists looking to reach Windsor via Shiloh Road off of northbound Highway 101, Friday morning, will have to find another way.  The offramp is one of many roadways closed by standing water as a result of the atmospheric river that began falling Thursday afternoon in the North Bay.  According to the California Highway Patrol’s traffic website, Caltrans shut down the exit ramp. A vehicle was left there overnight due to the flooding and no other vehicles will be able to get through, according to a post on the CHP site, made shortly before 6:30 a.m.  Also, schools in the Guerneville School District will be closed Friday, according to the Sonoma County Office of Education. Nearby creek flooding is affecting its parking lot and nearby roads, officials said.  Numerous roadways across Sonoma County have been affected by the rains, which have already tapered off Friday morning. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


These rivers in the greater SF Bay Area are expected to see flooding

“As yet another brutal weather system approaches the Bay Area, multiple rivers in the Northern California and Central Coast regions are swelling and expected to flood, the California Nevada River Forecast Center shows.   In the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, no rivers were predicted to swell above flood stage as of Friday morning, but forecasts can change. The Russian River, Napa River, and Guerneville River are all expected to rise above monitor stage.  … ”  Read more from SF Gate.

Bay Area storm: Atmospheric river rocks Bay Area, causing closures, evacuations

“The latest atmospheric river storm system walloped the Bay Area on Thursday evening into Friday morning, unleashing a powerful combination of rainfall and gusty winds that left roads flooded and trees leveled.  A vast majority of the storm’s rain fell in Thursday evening or later. According to National Weather Service 12-hour rain totals around 5 a.m. Friday, most Bay Area urban population centers hovered near the one-inch mark. San Jose received .88 inches, slightly more than downtown San Francisco’s .77. Other measurements along the Peninsula and in the South Bay included 1.23 in Redwood City, .99 in Palo Alto, 1.15 in Sunnyvale and .98 in Mountain View. … ”  Read more from the San Jose Mercury News.

San Leandro neighbors fear atmospheric river after repeat canal collapses caused by storms

“As a fresh set of storms moves in, residents in San Leandro are fearful of more flooding and significant property damage after the historic storms in January brought down nearby canal walls that still remain unfixed.  Crosby Street residents said they warned the Alameda County Flood Control District of the tilting walls more than a year ago, but nothing was done resulting in them failing.  “Imagine waiting for your yard to fall into a canal,” Victor Krevocheza said. “Waiting for something to be done to prevent it, that’s the most frustrating thing of all.” … ”  Read more from KTVU.


Millions face atmospheric river flood threat; Evacuations warnings issued in Santa Cruz County

“A potent weather front containing an atmospheric river engorged with warm tropical moisture triggered flood fears across Northern California and the state Thursday.  More than 17 million people are under flood watches in California and slices of Nevada. Much of California is under a significant risk of excessive rainfall that could inundate places already devastated by severe flooding earlier this year.  On Thursday at noon, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office issued an evacuation warning for residents in low-lying areas including parts of Watsonville, Soquel, Paradise Park and the area around Aptos Creek that could see flooding. … ”  Read more from CBS Bay Area.

Monterey County officials are monitoring water levels at the rivers

“Monterey County officials are monitoring water levels at the Big Sur River, Carmel River, and the Pajaro River in particular because of how many people live in close proximity to those rivers.  During the January storms, the town of Pajaro came close to flooding as it did in 1995. Monterey county said they have crews working on the levees, adding sandbags, and reinforcing flood walls to avoid any flooding.  “We’ve been out there over the last few months continuing to make sure the levees in good condition our flood wall, our temporary flood wall, make sure that’s still sound. … ”  Read more from KSBY.


San Joaquin County residents urged to learn more about groundwater significance during Groundwater Awareness Week

“San Joaquin County is pleased to join the National Groundwater Association (NGWA), and The Groundwater Foundation and California Groundwater Association in celebrating Groundwater Awareness Week (GWAW) March 5-11, 2023. GWAW was established in 1999 to highlight the need for responsible development, management, and use of groundwater and to celebrate local groundwater management efforts across the country. “Groundwater Awareness Week is an annual observance that focuses attention on one of the state’s most precious resources as well as ways to preserve and protect it,” said San Joaquin County Public Works Director Fritz Buchman. “Whether it’s educating yourself or your children on the importance of groundwater, advocating for sustainable long-term groundwater supplies, or having your own groundwater monitored, please remember to take time this week to help protect groundwater resources in San Joaquin County now and into the future.” … ”  Read more from San Joaquin County.

Evacuation order in effect as San Joaquin River flooding expected to strike same areas hit during January storm

“Just two months ago, Eric Bradley helped his neighbors evacuate from a mobile home park that sits along the San Joaquin River in the Newman area.  Bradley and his pickup truck moved 60 trailers to higher ground. Now he’s preparing to do it all again.  “I gotta get my truck up and go over here and start moving everybody,” he said.  The high likelihood of flooding is again threatening people living at the exact same site, according to the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services which is alerting people to flood danger that is expected for the Newman area in the coming days. … ”  Read more from KCRA.

Here’s how operator of Don Pedro Reservoir plans to guard against flooding along Tuolumne

“The managers of Don Pedro Reservoir said they stand ready to handle the Tuolumne River surge expected with the next round of storms. The Turlock Irrigation District said in a Wednesday news release that it has made careful releases since early January to prepare for runoff later in winter. The massive dam near La Grange is designed to protect the lower 52 miles of river corridor from destructive flows from higher in the Sierra Nevada.  TID operates Don Pedro in partnership with the Modesto Irrigation District and has rights to about two-thirds of its water and hydropower. … ”  Read more from the Modesto Bee.

Fresno Irrigation District working to handle water coming from atmospheric river

“Waldron Basin east of Kerman has been filling up with diverted flood flows brought on by previous storms.  Fresno Irrigation District General Manager Bill Stretch says other basins will take on a different look when the skies open up.  “We’ve got three or four dry cells, so we’re keeping those dry in anticipation of what we’re going to see in the next few days,” he said.  This is where FID can draw water directly from the Kings River but right now, it needs to control the flow of water going into the system. … ”  Read more from KFSN.

Army Corps prepares for Kings River flooding, temporarily cuts Pine Flat Dam flow

“Facing the prospect of a new set of storms to batter California, Pine Flat Dam has temporarily reduced its outflow to protect against the flood potential of the Kings River.  The decision was made by the Kings River Water Association and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   The big picture: The temporary reduction began Thursday at midnight and was scheduled to finish by Thursday night. However, the Army Corps of Engineers is anticipating future suspensions of nearly all releases as the storms progress. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.


OEHHA releases fish consumption advisory for Castaic Lake and Lagoon

“The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released an update on the qualifications of consumption for multiple fish species in Castaic Lake and Castaic Lagoon.  OEHHA’s recommendations were based on the levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in fish caught from the lakes.  According to the OEHHA, mercury is released into the environment from mining and burning coal. Methylmercury, the form of mercury accumulated in fish, can damage the brain and nervous system. This can especially affect developing children and fetuses. … ”  Read more from the Santa Clarita Signal.


How the recent storms impacted San Diego’s water supply in reservoirs

“With recent storm systems that swept through the west, California has seen more precipitation this year than normal, bringing the water supply stored in reservoirs — both locally and across the state — up from historic lows to levels that are some of the highest in years.  And with drought conditions having improved in much of California, experts say that the amount of water captured from this year’s particularly wet winter could help ease the impact of hotter, drier weather in San Diego, as the state recovers its depleted water supplies.  “The state received nine atmospheric rivers and they provided major precipitation, (allowing) water agencies across the state – including San Diego County – to store some of that water for hotter, drier summertime, when water usage goes up,” Efren Lopez, water resources specialist with the San Diego Water Authority, said to FOX5SanDiego.com. … ”  Read more from Channel 5.

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Along the Colorado River …

Colorado River doomsday averted? Some hopeful as top water official visits desert

Colorado River from Moab Rim. Photo by the USGS.

“The nation’s top Western water official visited the Coachella Valley on Thursday to highlight federal funding for infrastructure that carries Colorado River water to area farm fields. The visit comes during a break in heavy winter storms across the West that are buoying hopes among regional water officials for a temporary reprieve on potentially huge cuts to river supply.  U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton was mum on whether heavy snowpack in the Rockies and elsewhere could push back massive reductions she told Congress last spring were necessary to keep the river and its reservoirs afloat. But California officials are cautiously optimistic that major reductions could be averted this year. … ”  Read more from the Desert Sun.

Who gets harmed as the Colorado River changes?

“National and regional media love a good fight, and lately a day doesn’t pass without a major news story or op-ed focused on Colorado River disagreements, particularly amongst the seven states of the Colorado River Basin (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). Which state must bear the brunt of shortages needed as Colorado River flows decline? Which sector of water users takes the hit as climate change continues to diminish the river? Should urban water supplies be protected because that’s where all the people are? (Municipal water supply representatives will quickly remind us that if all urban uses of Colorado River water were cut off, there would still be a shortage). Should agricultural water supplies be protected because we all need to eat? Historic agreements and common sense tend to clash—or don’t—depending on who is telling the story. … ”  Read more from Audubon.

Lake Mead sees fewer visitors

“The water level isn’t the only thing that’s down at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  After being number five on the list of top 10 most visited national parks and recreation areas in 2021, the lake dropped to the ninth spot for 2022.  After seeing about 7.6 million visitors in 2021, just 5.6 million people were reported to have come last year, a drop of nearly 25 percent.  National Park Service spokesperson Mike Theune pointed out that, even after the drop, Lake Mead is still in the top 10.  “Out of 424 units, Lake Mead is currently number nine and accounts for about 2 percent of visitors to the entire system,” he said. … ” Read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Heavy winter snowpack prompting releases from Salt River Project reservoirs

“Even before the parade of February snowstorms began marching through Arizona’s high country, meteorologists and hydrologists were beginning to see the handwriting on the canyon walls:  The Southwest’s moisture-laden winter was going to force the Salt River Project to begin “spilling” water from its reservoir system in order to create storage space for the Spring runoff season.  SRP recently began a low-level release of water from its Verde River system. Initial releases began flowing over Granite Reef Dam – located about four miles below the confluence of the Salt and Verde rivers – at a rate of approximately 500 cubic feet per second (CFS), which increased to 1,000 CFS last weekend.  The releases, which originate out of Bartlett Dam, are expected to continue through March. … ”  Read more from the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

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In national water news today …

President’s fiscal year 2024 budget requests $1.4 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation

“The Biden-Harris administration today released the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2024. The $1.4 billion budget for the Bureau of Reclamation makes critical, targeted investments in the American people that will promote greater prosperity and economic growth for decades to come.  “The President’s budget proposal lends significant support to Reclamation’s priorities to secure and modernize our nation’s water infrastructure to ensure our work progresses with stakeholders to sustainability address drought, climate change and issues of equity,” said Commissioner of Reclamation Camille Calimlim Touton. “This will allow our dedicated professionals to develop innovative solutions and support adaptive management of precious resources, for today and into the future.” … ”  Read more from the Bureau of Reclamation.

House GOP votes to overturn Biden administration water protections

“The House on Thursday voted to overturn the Biden administration’s protections for thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, advancing long-held Republican arguments that the regulations are an environmental overreach and burden to business.  The vote was 227-198 to overturn the rule.  House Republicans used the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to block recently enacted executive-branch regulations. The measure now heads to the Senate, where Republicans hope to attract Democratic senators wary of Biden’s environmental policies. … ”  Continue reading at PBS News Hour.

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National water and climate update …

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces this weekly report using data and products from the National Water and Climate Center and other agencies. The report focuses on seasonal snowpack, precipitation, temperature, and drought conditions in the U.S.Precipitation watch.


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Also on Maven’s Notebook today …

REGISTER NOW: Online Short Course, Spring 2023: Groundwater, Watersheds, and Groundwater Sustainability Plans

REGISTER NOW: Army Corps regulatory workshop: Overview of Permit Types, Endangered Species Act/Magnusson Stevens Act (Essential Fish Habitat) submittals

NOTICE: Public Comment Period on a Draft Temporary Conditional Waiver for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant

NOTICE: Comment period opens for Harvest Water Program draft contracts for the administration of public benefits

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.


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